First Galileo satellites launched, Europe's answer to GPS

The European Union's satellite navigation system came a step closer to reality today, as the first two Galileo satellites were launched into orbit. Originally, the launch was scheduled for yesterday, but problems with a leaky valve meant plans had to be put on hold for 24 hours to avoid any issues. Galileo is aimed for a 2014 switch-on, with the project finished in 2019.

Today's launch is the latest chapter in Galileo's story, which has seen several setbacks and funding problems. The system isn't without its critics; experts say that Galileo will need an extra €7 billion to make it through to the end of the decade. By then, all 30 satellites should be in orbit, and the EU will be prepared to start offering its two-tier system where clients can access higher-precision capabilities for a fee.

So what does this mean for global positioning? For a start, Galileo is far more precise than GPS. The two systems working together will improve coverage in cities and other problematic areas like northern Europe. More specialised features like being able to send out a distress signal should come in handy for exotic expeditions. Also, the neutrality of the project is seen as a bonus as the US-run GPS always runs the risk of being disabled during a war.

Whether or not Galileo will be making its way into sat navs remains to be seen, but GPS giant TomTom has expressed an interest. Speaking to BusinessWeek, TomTom spokesperson Kristina Nilsson said: "We are following it closely. GPS is accurate, but we always track all new technical developments." 

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Mythbusted: No link between mobile phones & brain cancer

Next Story

Rumor: Doom 4 on indefinite hold? [Update]

26 Comments

View more comments

Yay! I can continue to find those pesky back streets in Amsterdam even while nuclear bombs are detonated all around me!

as much as people try to play this off as a non-military application (save us from the Evil USA GPS system), it definatly is one...who's to say someone can't switch this off also? there's always an off switch somewhere all you need is a rogue individual to do it, or a nation to disable the system that had access to it

and if GPS is switched off for civilian usage. we have far worse things to worry about at the time

Well people like to hate on the US for whatever the reason of the week is, and I doubt a lot of people using whatever their current GPS device is know that the US run in the first place.

Though I can see why people would prefer a more "neutral" system that is run by a body governing multiple countries of the EU instead of the one country that is the US.

Personally i just want it to work and get me where I am going and don't care for any of this nonsense.

To put it in a simple way: we can't trust you.
Also, this:

The modernization programme also contains standardized features that allow GPS III and Galileo systems to inter-operate, allowing a new receiver to utilise both systems to improve precision. By combining GPS and Galileo, it can create an even more precise GNSS system.

tiagosilva29 said,
To put it in a simple way: we can't trust you.

Especially after the four-year delay with the Block IIF program.

In fact, just three weeks ago, the Russians finally brought the GLONASS system back up to full operational capability for the first time since 1995.

By the time Galileo is finished, so will the Chinese Beidou-2 (Compass-2) system. Since the beginning of 2010, they've been launching satellites at an average rate of one every three months.

By the end of this decade, there will be *four* independent navigation constellations whizzing by up in the sky.

TomJones said,

Especially after the four-year delay with the Block IIF program.

In fact, just three weeks ago, the Russians finally brought the GLONASS system back up to full operational capability for the first time since 1995.

By the time Galileo is finished, so will the Chinese Beidou-2 (Compass-2) system. Since the beginning of 2010, they've been launching satellites at an average rate of one every three months.

By the end of this decade, there will be *four* independent navigation constellations whizzing by up in the sky.


Moreover, most modern smartphones works on GLONASS. Even Qualcomm MSM8255 was made to support dual mode, though it wasn't PRed. With newer chips GLONASS starts appearing in specs - iPhone4S, Galaxy Note, MI-ONE etc

With Galileo we will have tripple mode. And that's good. GPS has a lot of weak point especially on northern latitudes, where GLONASS is much more accurate.

I thought the whole point of this system was improve upon and make civillian devices less dependant on the US GPS system. and then at the end of the article comes the statement..

" Whether or not Galileo will be making its way into sat navs is yet to be seen" slight contradiction, either that or a pointless drain on EU Tax payers.

littleneutrino said,
I can honestly say i thought GPS was worldwide not just in the USA

it is world wide interms of coverage, the sat constallation covers pretty much the entire globe

littleneutrino said,
I can honestly say i thought GPS was worldwide not just in the USA

GPS is worldwide ... however the system is run/owned by the US.

k37chup said,
Another waste of resources

Hardly. The US controls GPS and has the ability to disable it, so the EU has opted to launch a multi-national alternative that they have political control over. The fact that it's more accurate is a bonus.

My question is that those that have GPS recievers in their phones/headsets/etc, are they compatible with the Galileo system?

Explain to me why the US would disable GPS in time of war when a great deal of their targeting systems now depend on it being active?

*
The GPS system is worldwide but is controlled by a US military Base in Colorado.

Also the GPS system has 2 frequencies that broadcast. One of them is imprecise for civilians and the other one is for military with an encryption code for military purposes. But since 2000, the second frequency used is open to everyone with the encryption code known.

BUT, in a war, the military can shut down the first frequency and modify the encryption code for the second one for themselves.

Commenting is disabled on this article.